Being a collector of autographed football cards from the American Football League sets, I like to keep track of card sales on Ebay and through other sources. Recently, a nicely signed 1960 Fleer Hank Stram rookie card went up for auction. The card itself appeared to be in roughly excellent condition, with the centering problems typical of that issue. The card was signed in blue ballpoint, and was authenticated and encapsulated by PSA/DNA. It was a nice card, and certainly worthy of most any signed card collection. Still, when the hammer fell at $270 plus change, my jaw nearly hit the floor.
I knew the buyer, and shot him a quick email. He said that he was thrilled to have won the auction, and that his bid was actually set at more that twice the final price. We had spoken in the past about the rarity of the signed Hank Stram rookie card, and compared it to the relative ease with which one can find a signed Sid Gillman rookie card. Frankly, the difference in rarity and price (autographed PSA/DNA Gillmans are in the $75-$100 range) of the two autographed cards did not immediately make sense to me, as the cards have several similarities, including:
- Both are from the same single-series set (1960 Fleer).
- Both coaches lasted nearly the duration of the AFL (Gillman left the Chargers with four games left in 1969, citing health issues).
- Both coaches are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Both coaches were very willing through the mail (TTM) signers.
- Sid Gillman died in 2003, while Stram passed just two years later.
The discrepancy between autographed copies of the two cards continued to stump me, so I posed the question to the message board of Sports Collectors dot Net, a site where collectors meet online to discuss their experiences in the autograph hobby. My inquiry received a handful of responses which I felt had good insight into the issue about the cards. The reasons given, which I thought were particularly insightful, were:
- Unsigned copies of the two cards have different values. The Gillman can be had for roughly $20, while the Stram is somewhere in the $40 range. The higher the initial cost fo the card is, the less willing collectors are to send it out in the mail in the hipes that it will return autographed.
- Sid Gillman lived 20 years after his Hall of Fame induction, while Stram was a HoF member for just two years before he passed away, during which he was not in good health. That gave the HoF collectors a very short window to get that particular card signed.
- Hank Stram won Super Bowl IV with the Chiefs, while the greatest championship that Gillman won was the AFL title in 1963. Collectors give more credence to Super Bowl titles than to any title (AFL, AAFC, NFL, etc.) that was earned in the days before the Super Bowl.
I thought this a very interesting look at the collectability of two Hall of Fame coaches. While both coaches appear to have similar credentials on the surface, astute collectors assign a higher value to Stram, and prehaps rightfully so. In my estimation, there are eight-to-ten autographed 1960 Fleer Sid Gillman cards on Ebay for each Hank Stram. I guess that I’m just lucky to have gotten mine signed many years ago.